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In New York City, the law offers protections for tenants. If your landlord does not properly maintain your apartment or rental home, you may be eligible for legal damages if you suffer an injury due to dangerous property conditions.

It’s important for renters to know when their NYC landlord might be liable for injuries.

Understanding warrant of habitability

Your landlord must provide a safe, clean and livable apartment, even if your lease does not explicitly state these conditions. This law, called the warrant of habitability, applies to both your specific unit and to the public spaces in your building. Conditions that violate the warrant of habitability include:

  • Lack of heat or hot water
  • Insect infestation
  • Fire or water damage
  • Nonworking HVAC, plumbing or electrical systems
  • Garbage or mold
  • Nonworking or unsafe appliances
  • Lack of reasonable protection from intruders (locks and window bars, for example)
  • Presence of lead paint or other toxic materials
  • Lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Broken steps

What to do about unsafe conditions

Although the law requires landlords to fix these issues, the New York Times found that many property owners and managers fail to comply. This disproportionately affects tenants in low-income, rent-stabilized and affordable housing.

When you have concerns about hazards in your apartment, request that the landlord repair these conditions. Write a letter detailing the problem, enclosing photos. Then, send these documents to your landlord through certified mail; keep a copy, along with the receipt, for your records.

Seeking legal compensation

If you decide to sue your landlord for costs associated with an injury at the apartment, you may be able to use the above-mentioned documents as evidence of negligence. If the landlord fails to respond in a timely manner, your documentation may show that the property manager or owner knew about and failed to fix the hazard.

You can seek damages for short- and long-term medical expenses associated with an injury. Depending the facts of the case, other damages may include loss of income, mental anguish, pain and suffering, long-term disability, and disfigurement. Keep in mind that you have a limited time from the date of the injury to file this type of lawsuit in New York, so it is important to seek legal help as soon as possible.